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August 27, 2014

Beneath the public transport system

Beneath the surface of our public transport system, where the trains don’t run and where the private bus operators have decided there is no longer profit to be made from running a service, people continue to live and have the same needs as everyone else who want to get from A to B. But without a car this can often seem to be an insuperable barrier – particularly if it’s elderly folk who need to get to their day care centre. Where there’s a will there’s a way.



Sheila Fletcher, CTA

It seemed like the end of the world in 2009 when the letter arrived to say that their transport funding had been withdrawn. However, Creich, Croik and Kincardine Day Care Association (the Bradbury Centre) had a history of being resilient and set out to find a solution.


The Centre had been built by the community in the mid-90s to enable elderly and disabled people to have access to social activities and lunch locally. At the time the Council proposed to centralise services in Dornoch and the community felt they could do better. Once funds were raised and the building ready to open it was realised that transport was likely to be a problem. Public transport is virtually non-existent in the area and even with the use of the Council’s Services there were still gaps.

In 2003 The Centre successfully obtained grant funding from a then Scottish Executive initiative but unfortunately when this funding stream was passed to Highland Council in 2007 they changed the criteria and in 2009 funding was withdrawn. After a lot of soul searching, research, advice and support from the Community Transport Association, the Centre embarked on the innovative solution of buying their own minibus and registering their usual routes as bus services. This had never been done before by a community group in the Highlands. Lorraine Askew, Bradbury Centre Manager said: “Although the initiative has been successful it is an ongoing challenge. We receive no funding for running the service so all revenue comes from fares and charges. Running a bus service is quite an onerous task but it has been worth it. We are now waiting for the delivery of our second bus which is being custom built and should arrive before Christmas.”

Success breeds success

Following on from the lead of the Bradbury Centre other groups across Highland have developed transport services specific to the needs of their communities. The first was Lochaber Action on Disability (LAD) who registered their Thursday and Friday shopper services. LAD now also have a five day a week DRT service in Fort William to enable people to attend lunch and activities in the Caol Centre. North West Community Bus, Transport for Tongue, Helmsdale Community Transport and Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company all operate services across the across the area.


Others groups are considering following the example of these groups. The key to success is, establishing needs, introducing services that you know will be used, setting fares and charges that will cover costs and not being frightened to review, change and even withdraw if things are not working.